Scientists have developed tiny elastic robots that can change shape depending on their surroundings. Modeled after bacteria and fully biocompatible, these robots optimize their movements so as to get to hard-to-reach areas of the human body. They stand to revolutionize targeted drug delivery, leading to ingestible robots that deliver drugs directly to diseased tissue.

The robots are modeled after bacteria and are fully biocompatible. (Credit: EPFL/ ETHZ)

The smart, biocompatible microrobots are highly flexible. Because these devices are able to swim through fluids and modify their shape when needed, they can pass through narrow blood vessels and intricate systems without compromising on speed or maneuverability. They are made of hydrogel nanocomposites that contain magnetic nanoparticles allowing them to be controlled via an electromagnetic field.

The scientists are able to “program” the robot's shape so that it can easily travel through fluids that are dense, viscous, or moving at rapid speeds.

The robots can be either controlled using an electromagnetic field or left to navigate on their own through cavities by utilizing fluid flow. Either way, they will automatically morph into the most efficient shape.

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